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The Blues Brothers: Former Syracuse teammates Nassib, Pugh bring friendship to New York Giants, live out NFL dream together

first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on September 24, 2014 at 12:03 am Contact Phil: [email protected] | @PhilDAbb EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Justin Pugh would always fall asleep first.After 6 a.m. Friday workouts during the summer while taking classes at Syracuse, Ryan Nassib took the passenger seat and Pugh would sprawl out in the backseat of Joe Nassib’s car for the drive down from Syracuse to the outskirts of Philadelphia.For the hour and a half Nassib and Pugh weren’t sleeping during the trip, they’d talk about Philadelphia sports. The Orange’s upcoming season and SU stories also came up. Bruce Springsteen was the only music played out of the car’s speakers.Nassib and Pugh became more than teammates. More than friends, too.“Justin’s my left tackle. If you ever play quarterback, you know that your left tackle has to be your best buddy,” Nassib said. “He’s more like a brother to me now.”AdvertisementThis is placeholder textNever in a million years, Nassib said, did he expect to wear the same uniform as Pugh after their time at Syracuse. The two seniors said their goodbyes on the bus after Syracuse’s Pinstripe Bowl victory over West Virginia in December 2012.They knew they would still see each other as they prepared for the 2013 NFL Draft in April, but without Syracuse football, they thought their friendship would never be the same.But as the fourth round unfolded two days after the New York Giants selected Pugh with the 19th overall pick in the draft, Pugh received a text from Nassib.It read: “I’ll see you out there.”***Nassib and Pugh are teammates for the sixth straight year and are now three weeks into their second season in the NFL. They were vital parts of the Orange’s turnaround under then-head coach Doug Marrone from 2009–12, and have continued their friendship on the professional level.They grew up as Philadelphia Eagles fans, but the Eagles passed over Pugh in the first round for another offensive lineman and also selected Southern California quarterback Matt Barkley 12 picks before the Giants took Nassib.Two years later, Nassib is Eli Manning’s backup while Pugh is the Giants’ returning starter at right tackle, and a chip on each of their shoulders smoothened their transitions from Eagles fans to Giants players.“(The Eagles) basically told me that I wasn’t good enough to play for them,” Pugh said at Giants training camp in July. “So you know what? I actually lucked out they didn’t draft me because I ended up with what I think is the best organization in football.”Due to injuries up front, Pugh started all 16 games at right tackle on a line that he said didn’t protect Manning well enough.The Giants’ front line is undergoing a massive overhaul. Four-time Pro Bowler Chris Snee retired before the season, so no offensive linemen remain from the Giants’ 2012 Super Bowl winning team.To better prepare himself to lead a new-look offensive line with three new starters, Pugh reshaped his workout routine. He started hot yoga, used the Giants’ hot and cold tubs and worked with a nutritionist to improve his diet, helping him gain more than 10 pounds of “good weight.”“You see it in his play,” Giants offensive line coach Pat Flaherty said at training camp in July. “He somewhat weighs more but more importantly, he’s stronger. What he has between his ears in terms of wanting to be good, that’s always been there.”But as Pugh suited up to compete for the Giants every week last season, he couldn’t help looking across the locker room and seeing Nassib, who was inactive for all 16 games and didn’t dress for most of them.***After the 2013 draft, Giants general manager Jerry Reese told reporters that Nassib had too much value to pass on him with the 13th pick of the fourth round.But Reese was also quoted by USA Today as saying in a post-draft press conference, “If he doesn’t ever play, that would be great.”That’s the uphill battle Nassib faces with the Giants. He is stuck behind Manning, a two-time Super Bowl MVP who hasn’t missed a game since becoming the Giants’ starter in 2004 — the longest active streak in the NFL.“I know it’s tough for him,” Pugh said. “He takes his job very seriously. Ryan studies so much that he knows just as (much) as anybody in that locker room. I know eventually he’s going to get his shot somewhere along the road and he’s going to be ready.”Curtis Painter was the Giants’ second-string quarterback last season and appeared in just three games. Nassib only worked in the film room and with the scout team on the practice field.But before this season, the Giants brought in new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo, who installed a scheme resembling what Nassib ran at Syracuse.“I definitely have a little more familiarity with this offense,” Nassib said. “Similar concepts that carry over. Last year, it was kind of all new to me but now I’m definitely a little more comfortable.”Throughout the offseason, the Giants’ coaches hinted to media that they would rather carry just two quarterbacks on the roster. Manning would be one. Nassib’s job was in jeopardy if he didn’t outperform Painter.In the Giants’ first preseason game, Nassib led the Giants to a fourth-quarter comeback to beat Marrone’s Buffalo Bills. Two weeks later, he steered the offense to two late touchdowns to rally to victory from a 26-0 deficit.By the end of camp, the backup spot was his.“You kind of don’t know what to expect until you get here,” Nassib said. “You learn something new every day, which is fun and exciting. At the end of the day, it’s still football. It’s just a higher level.“I still treat it as the game I’ve played my whole life, so hopefully that sticks with me for a while.”***On the commutes back to Syracuse for summer classes, Pugh would devour a huge hoagie and chips from Wawa — and then was the first to fall asleep, again.Nassib would doze off next, leaving his cousin and SU cornerback Joe Nassib to do all the driving.“I’m still waiting for them to send me up some gas money because they’re in the NFL right now, but I still haven’t seen that check yet,” Joe Nassib said with a laugh.They often took hour-long trips from the Philadelphia region to the New Jersey shore for the weekend before venturing back up to Syracuse on Sunday night for summer classes during the week. Then they’d do it all over again.Now, Pugh and Nassib’s conversations naturally revert to their Syracuse days — but mostly when it’s the two of them.“We do it around others, people are going to get kind of sick of our Syracuse connec-tion,” Nassib said. “We had a great time, man. We did some great things that we’ll always remember.”Aside from the joy of winning two bowl games and a few upsets in the Carrier Dome, they recall meals at Graham Dining Hall, dinners at Tully’s on Thursday nights with their teammates, socializing in University Village and the SU coaches who stuck by them.But they also discuss Giants football.From the pocket, Nassib can see everything on the field in practice that Pugh misses from the trenches. And Pugh knows a lineman’s perspective better than Nassib ever could.Pugh will bounce questions off Nassib to better understand the quarterback’s view-point and how the line’s protections reflect the pre-snap changes the quarterback calls for. Nassib uses Pugh as a sounding board to learn what’s most convenient for a lineman and views him as motivation despite their different roles.“The epitome of student-athletes,” SU head coach Scott Shafer said of Nassib and Pugh. “They grew up on the same cause and I think their unselfishness is why they’re paired up as good friends.”At Syracuse, Nassib and Pugh never lived together. But they’re roommates on the road now.Nassib controls the remote, which means they watch a lot of Family Guy and Modern Family before they go to sleep. But when they wake up, they’re not in Joe Nassib’s car.They wake up in the NFL.Said Pugh: “It’s been a dream come true.” Commentscenter_img Related Stories The Homecoming: Former Syracuse tackle Bromley relishes chance to play for hometown Giants, restore once-dominant defensive linelast_img

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